Because of Russells actions against Tony he has been arrested and now is unsure of some of the terminology used by the police and how they can relate to the case presented against Russell these terms are actus reus, mens rea and strict liability. Russell wants to know what is meant by actus reus and mens rea and how they apply to his case. Actus reus is put simply the guilty act the definition of this from the webster dictionary as the wrongful act that makes up the physical action of the crime. Actus reus is broken into three elements which are conduct, consequence and circumstance. And also consists of state of affairs Consequence is the result of the actions performed by the defendant. Whether this be by the defendant’s conduct or omission which caused harm or damage. Consequence is broken into two elements. Factual causation and legal causation.
Factual causation is the starting point, it consists of applying the ‘but for’ test and in some cases this will be enough for establishment of causation in others they will need legal causation. Legal causation means that the result must be caused by a capable act which can be seen in the case of R v Dalloway 1847. In order to consider legal causation in needs to be considered if there is a break in causation which are.
Refusal of treatment/aggravation of injuries by the victim. Thin skull rule. Injuries resulting from an attempted escape. And poor medical treatment.
Conduct is the actions which a party has performed. There are two categories which are part of making up conduct these are omission which is when a person has not performed any actions which in turn has resulted in unfavorable consequences this can be seen in the case of R v Miller1983. You will not be liable unless you fall under one of these five categories. Special relationship, such as relatives these can be seen in cases and legislations such as the children and young person act 1933 and R v Gibbins 1918. In public office such as police as seen in R v Dytham 1979. A creation of danger whether this be accidental or deliberate as seen in R v Miller1983. Have a contractual duty as seen in R v Pittwood 1902 or has taken a position of voluntary assumption of responsibility as seen in R v Stone & Pittwood 1977.
In Russells case the conduct can be seen by him putting the lit magazine through tony’s letterbox.Circumstance is everything not included in conduct and consequence.R v sault ste marie 1978 distinguishes between three types of offences, mens rea, strict liability and state of affair offences state of affair crimes which are crimes that consist of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ for example ‘being’ drunk in charge of a vehicle Duck v Peacock 1947 or being an illegal alien R v Larsonneur 1933 it can be summed up in being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However this does not relate to the case of Russell in this instance. Where as mens rea is the guilty mind.
It is the intention of the defendants actions. The two elements to mens rea are intention and recklessness.Intention requires fault of all levels of mens rea, it is not the same thing as motive which regards the criminal liability. it means that a person had an aim and plan for their actions, their are two distinguishable types of intent, these are direct intent which is when a person for example buys a gun and plans to kill someone else, and does indeed kill them. The other type of intent is oblique intent which differs from direct intention as it is more complex .
oblique intent can affect parties that have not been the main aim for another parties actions an example of this can be if a person buys a gun to kill person x but shoot multiple bullets and hits and kills multiple people in this situation it would be oblique intent.Recklessness is when someone takes a risk with their actions, in mens rea recklessness has been difficult to apply in criminal law as to whether subjective or objective test should be taken. Recklessness can be seen by taking an unjustified risk which results in consequences that could be foreseeable but not intended.For a crime to be proven the prosecution must prove both the actus reus and mens rea this is called a true crime offence. Unless however they are regulatory offences such as speeding in which case it come under the category of strict liability.The main differences between actus reus and mens rea are that one is about the guilty act(actus reus) and one is about the guilty mind(mens rea) so in this case the actus reus would be putting the lit magazine through the letterbox of tony’s house and the mens rea would be the intention to cause destruction of property by litting the magazine on fire because this is not the intended purpose of a magazine.
The way that actus reus relates to the case of Mr Russell we have to look at the guilty acts that have been committed. These can are when the magazine was lit and put through the letterbox, as well as driving over the speed limit and of the alcohol limit the reasons why these are part of actus reus is because they are the physical actsWhere as the mens rea performed by Russell are seen in the intention behind the lighting of the magazine, which is not normally meant to be lit on fire on proving that there was an intent to cause damage when he put the lit magazine through the letterbox. The reason why the driving offences are not regarded as mens rea is because they are of regulatory offences/strict liability offences.Russell also wants to know why the police keep using the term strict liability. Strict liability offences means that the offence requires no proof of mens rea in relation to one or aspects of the actus rea. Because of this the prosecution does not have to prove mens rea. An example of a strict liability offence can be seen in driving offences such as speeding and driving without insurance Strict liability offences ar predominantly statutory in origin and usually deal with activities that are of general public offences.
They are mainly aimed and health and safety in businesses and because of this are called regulatory offences, such a case can be seen in Gammon Ltd v Attorney general of Hong Kong 1985 which was a case of strict liability because the belief was irrelevant. In a case of strict liability there is a presumption that mens rea is required but may be rebutted if the offence is regulatory, carries a heavy penalty, the wording of the act indicates strict liability or the crime is of social concernThere are arguments which can be made against the use of strict liability. It can create a protection from the public as well as promote enforcement of the law as it is easier to administer because it takes up less time due to less court appearances, another advantage is that it creates a deterrence in breaking these laws for example speeding offences do not need to be handled in courts as such raising standards On the other hand an injustice might arise as people may be liable where they are not at fault and have exercised reasonable care, it also does not necessarily act as a deterrent due to the fact that in order to act as a deterrent a person must know what they are doing is wrong in order to prevent it. A case where the defendant was unaware of the circumstances can be seen in Callow v Tillstone 1900and Alphacell v Woodward. It also creates a stigma, if a person is unjustly convicted due to strict liability the person or business could be damaged due to the stigma of criminal offences such as employment declaration. There is however rebuttable presumption which is an assumption that is deemed fact unless rebutted by reliable conflicting evidence so if someone has reliable evidence that they were not speeding when they were charged with speeding charge could be overturned.To sum up strict liability while can be seen as causing injustice and could potentially be argued that it goes against the humans right act 1998 article 6 which gives people the right to a fair trial the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages without strict liability offences in place in it takes the burden off the courts and thus keeps cost down as well as time.Strict liability then in the case of Russell is seen in him driving while over the alcohol limit as well as driving over the speed limit even if he didn’t intend to these would still come into regulatory offences as such no mens rea is needed to be provenTo sum up actus reus is the guilty act, mens rea is the guilty mind and strict liability offences are regulatory offences such as driving offences that do not require mens rea.
In Russell’s case these can be seen in lighting a magazine on fire(mens rea and actus reus) putting the magazine while on fire through tony’s letter box (actus reus) and driving over the speed limit and over the alcohol limit which is a regulatory offence and as such strict liability.